During a recent conversation with a new acquaintance I received the common reaction to my answer when asked what do you do for a living?  When I explained to the best of my ability in layman’s term that I am a CTR, her response was Wow, that must be a depressing job!  I explained, as I always do, that I am not a clinician and do not have direct-patient care.   I deal with their medical records and the statistics of cancer.  Still, she went on to say, you read their histories, know what the cancer does to them, their bodies, and probably how it affects their families.  You might not have direct face-to-face interaction, but you know their story.  

This did make me stop and think.  I do know each and every patient’s story.  I follow their journey from beginning to end – from the moment they suspect something is amiss or feel a lump, throughout their diagnostic workup, their treatment and finally to their disease-free state and sometimes unfortunately throughout their recurrence.  I can envision their journey, their sense of horror, maybe denial and their struggle as they come to terms with the diagnosis.  I feel their pain, dealing with the treatment and worse yet the side effects from the treatment; maybe hair loss, nausea & vomiting and fatigue.  I know first-hand their family’s struggle, trying to understand what is happening to their loved one, trying to be supportive at the same time feeling helpless. I can envision this so vividly that I do wonder why have I chosen a career as a CTR.

Simply and as corny or hokey as it sounds, this is my contribution to the fight on this horrible disease called cancer.  I am not a clinician.  They are the true heroes – the nurses, physicians, phlebotomists, technicians and pharmacists.  I think I probably would cry each time I had to poke someone with a needle or had to deliver the devastating news to them.  

I am not a researcher.  I do not understand the science or the biology of the cancer cells and I was never able to properly use a microscope no matter how hard I tried.  I am not a social worker.  These saints are willing to hold each patient’s hand and must have a bottomless well of empathy.  

I do not have direct-patient care but I know that the information I gather on each and every patient I encounter is used for research and treatment.  Each time I accurately capture a patient’s treatment and their disease-free status, I know this information is being analyzed to determine the efficacy of the treatment.  Each time I accurately capture the patient’s medical history, I know this information is being used to help educate people on the signs and symptoms of a cancer.  Each time I accurately capture a patient’s stage I know this information is being used to predict prognosis and is used to provide vital education to physicians.

No, I do not have face-to-face interactions with my patients; I cannot hold their hand or create the drug that will ease their disease burden or treat their disease but by accurately collecting and reporting their story I am contributing to the cure.

I am a CTR.


-Written by Registry Partners Oncology Services Division Project Manager- Theresa Real, RHIT, CTR